Outside magazine’s inaugural ‘Travel Awards’ winners

With twenty-three categories and every continent up for consideration, the competition is fierce, but today Outside magazine released its picks for its new Outside Travel Awards. The winners include everything from travel companies and locales to cameras, suitcases, hotels, and apps, road-tested by those in the know (you know, those people).

Amongst the chosen is Seattle-based Mountain Madness, a mountain adventure guide service and mountaineering school, for its new Tsum Valley trek in Nepal, named “Best Trip in the Himalayas.” Known in sacred Buddhist texts as the “Hidden Valley of Happiness,” the Tsum Valley lies on the edge of the more visited Manaslu Conservation Area, which opened just three years ago to tourism.

Best travel company Geographic Expeditions (GeoEx) has “consistently taken travelers to the most remote regions of the world, from Everest’s north side to Patagonia’s glaciers to the far reaches of Papua New Guinea. This year its trailblazing new terrain with a 27-day trek to the north face of K2 ($11,450).” Bonus: “the price of every GeoEx trip includes medical assistance and evacuation coverage from Global Rescue and medical-expense insurance through Travel Guard.” Not too shabby.

Also making the list: Myanmar is the “Best New Frontier;” Canon Powershot G-12 makes the “Best Camera;” the “Best New Adventure Lodge” is the Singular, outside of Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile; and the “Best Eco-Lodge” is the architectural marvel, The Mashpi in Ecuador.

[Photo credit: Flickr user tarotastic]

Trekking Nepal’s Tsum Valley

Nepal is, without a doubt, one of the top trekking destinations in the entire world. The hike to Everest Base Camp is a favorite with many adventure travelers and the Annapurna Circuit is widely considered to be one of the best long distance treks in the world. But those two well known hikes aren’t the only options for travelers, as there are a number of other great treks to be had as well. Take for example the Tsum Valley, Nepal’s “Hidden Valley of Happiness.”

Located in the shadow of Manaslu, the world’s eighth tallest mountain, the Tsum Valley is considered a sacred destination for Buddhists seeking spiritual progress on their path to enlightenment. Situated in north-central Nepal, the region has only been open to visitors for the past three years, and as a result, there isn’t much travel infrastructure, such as traditional tea houses, in place just yet.

Travelers will find a number of remote villages to explore however, many of which have centuries old monasteries that few outsiders have ever seen. They’ll also discover a unique destination that seems nearly untouched by the outside world, as most of the inhabitants of the Tsum Valley continue to grow their own food and raise their own yak herds, much like their ancestors have done for generations. Of course, the valley also offers plenty of the trademark Himalayan landscapes as well, with stunning views of snowcapped peaks and idyllic mountain meadows around every turn.

At the moment, the Tsum Valley remains a bit of a hidden gem –far off the radar for all but a few adventurous travelers. But those hoping to make the journey for themselves are in luck, as Mountain Madness, one of the top adventure travel companies in the world, is organizing an expedition for late 2012. The 27-day trip includes 16 days of trekking, cultural and historical tours of Kathmandu, and some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet.

For more information, including a detailed itinerary, gear list, and pricing, click here.

[Photo credit: Deana Zabaldo]